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Autumn Reynolds Honolulu CC spring 2024 commencement

With the help of Honolulu Community College, alumna Autumn Reynolds, 27, a first-generation college student, has overcome Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), COVID-19 and a stroke to pursue her musical dreams. Through the college’s Music & Entertainment Learning Experience (MELE) program, she earned her associate’s degree in May 2024.

“The MELE program provided me with a comprehensive education that combined creativity with practical industry knowledge,” said Reynolds. “It taught me that success looks different for everyone and that the possibilities in the music industry are endless.”

Early challenges

Growing up in the small town of Bristolville, Ohio, Reynolds faced numerous challenges, including her diverse cultural background (Black, Thai, Indigenous/Native American, and more) and the complexities of navigating higher education as the first in her family to attend college.

Her education journey began at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh as a voice performance major. However, a C-PTSD diagnosis during her first semester, stemming from adverse childhood experiences, made it difficult for her to find the resources she needed to succeed. After transferring to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and later taking a gap year, Reynolds discovered the MELE program at Honolulu CC and enrolled in 2020. The program’s unique focus on the music and entertainment industry immediately appealed to her.

Personalized attention, unwavering support

2 people in a music studio
Reynolds (in back) getting demo ready at Faith Rivera’s home studio.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented additional hurdles, but Reynolds persevered, completing her courses online and taking time off to focus on her mental and physical health. Her determination was put to the test again when she suffered a stroke in spring 2022. Yet, Reynolds remained steadfast in her goal to complete her education and returned to Honolulu CC that fall and finished her classes, with her professors’ unwavering support and understanding.

“The smaller class sizes and the personalized attention from my professors at Honolulu CC were crucial to my success,” Reynolds said. “Their empathy and willingness to work with my accommodations made a significant difference in my academic experience.”

Reynolds and Maya Sypert.

Reynolds said Maya Sypert, a music professor at the UH Mānoa, and Lynne Johnson, a lecturer and philanthropist, were huge supporters. They made sure she was housed and safe. They provided guidance for apartment hunting and edited cover letters and personal statements for jobs, internships and summer programs. Her roommate Jeany Robledo, a 2022 UH Mānoa alumna, whom she met at the UH dorms, was also a major help especially after her stroke.

Music pathway

Reynolds is looking forward to continuing her education at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Honolulu CC has an agreement with Belmont University for MELE students wishing to continue toward a bachelor’s degree with Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business. Reynolds plans to major in songwriting with a minor in publishing.

Her passion for music extends beyond her personal aspirations. She would like to become a singer/songwriter and eventually own a publishing company to support independent artists and writers, ensuring they receive fair compensation for their work.

—By Iris Greges

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